Given its M.O. of recycling Greek mythology, you'd think the fledgling Percy Jackson
franchise would've guarded itself better against hubris. However, its opening installment (adapted from Rick Riordan's young-adult fantasy novels) strolled onscreen in 2010, presuming itself the rightful heir to Harry Potter's throne. Instead, it learned that it takes more than a serviceable premise—the Greek gods' half-human kids scuffle with their extended family—to capture the public's imagination. Returning duly humbled, considerably scaled-down (demigods train on a cut-rate Wipeout
circuit; centaurs are primarily shot from the waist up) and blandly directed by Hotel for Dogs
' Thor Freudenthal, this second chapter hinges on a vague prophecy and a voyage to the astonishingly underpopulated Sea of Monsters. A mechanical bull seemingly ripped from Guillermo del Toro's sketchbook and a cheeky Nathan Fillion cameo are highlights. However, such glimmers of life are snuffed out by leaden storytelling, insipid humor and a performance by the already charisma-challenged Logan Lerman that can best be described as “contractually obligated.” Unsurprisingly, the mandatory setup for a third film also lacks any conviction. There's very little fun to be had watching a kids' flick so aware of its own mortality.